Mystery Religion: Mr. Obama's Contradictory Conversions to Christianity

Reasonable people will agree that much of Mr. Obama's biography is not exactly an open book.  Many things about him are unknown because they remain undisclosed, and much that has been disclosed leaves many questions unanswered at the same time as new ones are raised.

This article concerns something about Mr. Obama's life history that, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet been explored -- even though what is about to be discussed is, ironically, an "open book."

Readers are about to learn that Mr. Obama has supplied two completely contradictory accounts regarding the time frame of his conversion to Christianity. 

Startlingly, Mr. Obama has adhered to a story that says he converted to Christianity sometime around 1987-88 as well as a story that says he converted in the early 1990s.  Readers will see that this is easily verified with information the documentation of which cannot be contested.

Thus, unsurprisingly, part of what follows involves yet more dereliction of duty on behalf of the MSM.  It also involves, though, questions about Mr. Obama's two autobiographies.

Dr. Jack Cashill has raised what many consider very good questions as to who really authored Mr. Obama's autobiographies.  With respect to this issue, this article takes the stance that since Mr. Obama has never disavowed authorship, when it turns out that the autobiographies both contain and omit information that is detrimental to Mr. Obama's interests, reasonable people will hold Mr. Obama himself responsible.

So when did Mr. Obama actually convert to Christianity?  Let's begin with the 1987-88 possibility.  Mr. Obama, in an April 5, 2004 Chicago Sun-Times interview with Cathleen Falsani, says he went up for the altar call in Wright's church "16, 17 years ago.  1987 or 88."

It is hoped that readers will here forgive their writer a very brief aside that they may find interesting. 

In response to Ms. Falsani's inquiry "what is sin," Mr. Obama replies with "being out of alignment with my values [emphasis added]." 

Does this fit Christian doctrine?  Those who have read Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher and "Good European," will surely recognize that this kind of sentiment abounds in the man whose writings constituted works such as The Gay Science, The Will to Power, and The Anti-Christ.  Is this a mere coincidence?  Maybe, but please observe that in David Mendell's biography of Mr. Obama, entitled "Obama: From Promise to Power," Mendell indicates that Mr. Obama not only read, "but devoured the writings of Nietzsche" (p.61).  "Devoured" is a powerful word, is it not?

In any event, guess what: Mr. Obama is not the only one who has placed his formal commitment to Christianity in the 1987-1988 time frame. 

Jeremiah Wright ought to know when the president professed his formal commitment to Christianity in response to one of Wright's own altar calls, right?  Wright is featured in a February 8, 2005 article by Emily Udell in In These Times magazine, entitled "Keeping the Faith."  There, we have the statement that Obama "publicly affirmed his faith about 16 years ago when he heeded Wright's altar call at TUCC."

And let's not forget the president's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng.  In an April 30, 2007 article in the New York Times by Jodi Kantor, Soetoro-Ng indicates that Mr. Obama was baptized in 1988, the year of Wright's "audacity of hope" sermon.  Furthermore, Ng says in a subsequent January 20, 2008 New York Times Magazine article by Deborah Solomon that Mr. Obama "has been a Christian for 20 years."  Next, we have a webpage at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, which states that the commander-in-chief was baptized in 1988.

We're not through yet.  A January 21, 2007 Chicago Tribune article by Manya A. Brachear extols Wright as the inspirer of Obama's "audacity" and states that "[w]hen Obama sought his own church community, he felt increasingly home at Trinity. Before leaving for Harvard Law School in 1988, he responded to one of Wright's altar calls and declared a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

The 1988 date sure keeps popping up, doesn't it?  All told, in regard to the notion that the date of the president's formal profession of the Christian faith was 1988, we have the president's own 2004 statement that it was (although he also says it could have been 1987; one guesses he couldn't pinpoint the year of his formal profession of faith precisely in the interview, which in itself is intriguing because that means he could not (1) relate it to Wright's audacity sermon, which, as will see shortly, Mr. Obama himself says took place in 1988, not 1987, nor could he (2) relate it to a momentous event in Chicago -- Mayor Harold Washington's demise, which occurred on November 25, 1987 and which Mr. Obama notes on page 285 of Dreams), Wright's 2005 belief that it was, the president's half-sister's 2007 and 2008 declarations, the Miller Center's 2010 claim that it was, and the Chicago Tribune's 2007 statement. 

However, Mr. Obama would also have us believe that he converted to Christianity not in 1988, but in the early 1990s.  Turning now to a July 16, 2007 Christian Science Monitor article entitled "Barack Obama: Putting Faith Out Front" by Ariel Sabar, we are told that Mr. Obama formally committed to the Christian faith four years after Wright's 1988 "audacity of hope" sermon.  The difference between 1988 and 1992 is pretty consequential, particularly when the interim is composed largely of Obama's matriculation through Harvard Law.

Next, in a July 11, 2008 Newsweek article by Lisa Miller entitled "Finding his Faith" and featuring quotes from Mr. Obama, we are told that Mr. Obama was baptized in the early 1990s. 

What gives?  Because we have two different time frames to consider with respect to Mr. Obama's supposed declaration of faith, we shall have to explore each possibility.  We will see that there are serious obstacles to overcome if one is to accept either.

It proves important to hear Mr. Obama tell of lingering outside right after the meeting with a Reverend Phillips (and is anyone absolutely sure who this person is -- perhaps Phillips is another composite?) with thoughts that he (Obama, not Phillips) wouldn't "hear back from law schools until January" (Dreams from My Father, p. 275), since it allows us to get a fix on certain timing issues in regard to Obama's encounters with Phillips and Wright, as well as when the "audacity of hope" sermon was delivered. 

Mr. Obama's first year at Harvard Law School was 1988, and he entered in the fall semester; therefore, he is, in all likelihood, referring to January of 1988.  In fact, he later says he received his acceptance from Harvard in February 1988 (Dreams from My Father, p.289), and it is only, he says, after receiving the letter that he heard Wright's "audacity of hope" sermon (Dreams from my Father, p.293-295).  This implies, you will agree, that Mr. Obama is saying that he heard the sermon in 1988, which is what his half-sister told the NY Times on two separate occasions.

Now, suppose something which is in all likelihood true: Mr. Obama submitted his application to Harvard no more than a year before he received his acceptance.  In that case, we have him talking to Phillips, in all likelihood, sometime in early 1987 (conceivably somewhat later).  As for Wright, Mr. Obama says that he spoke with other pastors after the Phillips conversation, and several referred him to Wright, just as Phillips did.  So, time to pay Jeremiah a call, right?

After discussing the reviews Wright received in the Chicago pastoral community, Mr. Obama says that "[t]oward the end of October I finally got a chance to pay Reverend Wright a visit and see the church for myself" (Dreams from My Father, p.280).  So Mr. Obama met Wright in October 1987, after having met Phillips earlier that year.  Now have a gander at this skeptical musing of the president's, which occurred to him while lingering in his automobile, smoking a cigarette, after the Phillips conversation:

I glanced up now at the small, second-story window of the church, imagining the old pastor inside, drafting his sermon for the week.  Where did you faith come from, he had asked.  It suddenly occurred to me that I didn't have an answer.  Perhaps, still, I had faith in myself.  But faith in oneself was never enough. (Dreams from my Father, p.279)

Next, consider another musing of Mr. Obama's that he says occurred sometime after he first met Reverend Wright in October 1987.  In response to questions as to when he is going to join a church, Mr. Obama reflects:

And I would shrug the question off, unable to confess that I could no longer distinguish between faith and mere folly, between faith and simple endurance; that while I believed in the sincerity I heard in their voices, I remained a reluctant skeptic, doubtful of my own motives, wary of expedient conversion, having too many quarrels with God to accept a salvation too easily won. (Dreams from My Father, p. 286-287)

If one remembers that Obama is thinking this sometime in late 1987, one begins to wonder how one can avoid serious -- if you'll forgive the word -- skepticism in regard to the president's professed 1987/1988 religious conversion to Christianity.   

Let's develop that last notion by going back to the April 5, 2004 Chicago Sun-Times interview with Falsani.  In that interview, the president explicitly says that he answered the altar call in '87 or '88 via a "gradual process."  If Obama answered Wright's call and was baptized in 1988 upon having heard the "audacity sermon," as the president's half-sister says, as other sources quoted above say, and as the president in 2004 said was one of two possibilities, how, in view of the above documented quotations, could his purported conversion to Christianity possibly be described as gradual?  The answer is that it can't, which raises yet another issue as to Obama's sincerity.

Next, recollect that in the Chicago Sun-Times interview, the president himself was uncertain as to whether the baptism he claimed took place in Wright's church occurred in 1987 or 1988.  If it really did occur in 1987, it clearly had nothing to do with Wright's "audacity" sermon, since that happened in 1988, before Obama went to Harvard (and a 1987 baptism would also contradict Obama's half-sister's account).            

If we now direct our attention solely to the prospect that Obama sincerely answered Wright's call to the altar in 1988 after the "audacity of hope" sermon, then, in addition to the direct evidence of unwavering, confessed skepticism in late 1987 that militates against the president's claim that his conversion to Christianity was gradual, there is the fact that nowhere in Dreams from my Father, which was first published in 1995, is there any mention of the baptism.  There is, however, a long description of Wright's "audacity" sermon in the book.  But rather than offering an account of the presumptively ensuing heeding of the call to the altar, the "Chicago" section of the book concludes with the Wright sermon, and then we are whisked away to Kenya.

If Mr. Obama's baptism was sincere and happened in 1988 soon after he heard the "audacity" sermon, there's absolutely no reason why Obama would not have mentioned it (if he thinks it is the kind of thing that should be mentioned) in Dreams from my Father, is there?  And if the explanation is said to be that he doesn't think it is something that should be mentioned, why does he mention it in 2006's Audacity of Hope, and then without assigning a date to it? 

In sum, if, in spite of the other inconsistencies, you believe that the president sincerely converted to Christianity in 1987 or 1988, you are, at a minimum, going to have to believe he was prevaricating when, in 2004, he said that he came to believe in God gradually.  The 1987 staunch skepticism seems to require that assessment.

Now let's turn to the Newsweek and Christian Science Monitor prospect that the president's formal commitment to the Christian faith was in the early '90s.  First, recall that the president himself says in the 2004 Chicago Sun-Times interview that his formal profession of faith was in '87 or '88.  Furthermore, there is no evidence in the 2005 In These Times article that Wright thought anything like this happened in the early '90s. 

If Obama walked down the aisle and knelt at the cross in response to Wright's altar call in the early '90s, why doesn't either of them say so in 2004 or 2005, and why does Obama expressly declare in 2004 that the event took place in 1987 or 1988 and say nothing about the date of the supposed response to the altar call in 2006? 

Furthermore, three to four years after the Sun-Times interview, we observe statements in the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek suggesting that the president would have us believe that in 2004 he couldn't tell the difference among 1987, 1988, and the early 1990s!

In view of the foregoing, what reason is there at all to believe Obama's claim that he sincerely professed belief in God in Wright's church in the early 1990s?  And, if we accept that he did, it would contradict the 1987/1988 assertions, and then what are we supposed to make of those?

When we emerge from the labyrinth, we can conclude as follows: Mr. Obama has adhered to two contradictory time frames as to when he converted to Christianity, and no matter which time frame one considers accepting, one encounters facts that make accepting the time frame very challenging for a rational person. 

Therefore, one is rational to conclude that Mr. Obama's true relationship to religion, if indeed he has one, is, like so much else about him, a mystery. 

In any event, people the world over now know that whatever the truth on this issue may be, it is necessarily one that is consistent with the idea that the federal government has the power to compel certain religious institutions and people to supply contraceptives against their most deeply held convictions.

Is surgical abortion next?  

Jason Kissner, Ph.D., J.D. is associate professor of criminology, California State University, Fresno.

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